Recruit Participants for Usability Testing

The User Research Center (URC) can provide consultations on what types and how many participants to recruit for your studies. We use a variety of recruitment approaches included:

  • Targeted email recruiting; we provide templates and best practices. See examples in the UX wiki.
  • On the spot recruiting for informal testing; we provide a list of locations on-campus and information on how to reserve space. See examples in the UX wiki.
  • If you’re interested in recruiting users of assistive technology for testing for accessibility, please see the Accessibility Testing Recruitment page.
  • Recruiting from the HSA/URC Participant Pool. See further details below.

HSA/URC Participant Pool Overview

The URC works with the HSA to manage a participant pool of Harvard students who are interested in participating in usability testing, focus groups, and other user research activities. There are 57 graduate students and 295 undergraduate students in the pool. Participants can be recruited by their year, academic concentration, or usage of mobile devices.

Students can be hired for $25/hr, which covers payment for their time and time the HSA will spend recruiting and coordinating scheduling participants. Students will be paid through the HSA and your department/project can pay the HSA directly via a budget line number. If you only have a 30-minute study, you may consider partnering with another department or running 2 studies during the hour to make the most of your time with students.

If you’d like to recruit participants for a study, please contact Amy Deschenes or Danielle Lavoie at and we will help coordinate recruitment. 

If you are interested in training or consulting from URC staff members, please contact to discuss your project needs. The URC lab space can also be booked for your test sessions. Read more information about the URC

HSA Participant Pool Combined Data

The study pool consists of 352 total students. 57 of them are graduates while 295 of them are undergraduates.

Spring 2017 Graduate/Undergraduate Status within the HSA Study Pool. There are 84% undergraduates and 16% graduates.

Spring 2017 HSA Study Pool bar chart. There are 57 graduate students and 295 undergraduate students in the study pool.

About 78% of the students have at least one iPhone while around 21% have at least one Android. Only about 1% either don't have a smartphone or have a Windows phone.

Spring 2017 HSA Study Pool Mobile Phone OS usage. 78% of the pool (289 students) use iPhone/iOS, 21% (77 students) use Android, and 1% (4 users) use Windows Phone or a non-smartphone.

Around 55% of students don't own tablets while 33% have iPads. The remaining 12% either have an Android, Windows, or other tablet.

Spring 2017 HSA Study Pool Tablet OS usage. 33% (120 students) use iPad/iOS, 4% (15 students) use Android, 5% (19 students) use Windows, 3% (10 students) use Other, and 55% (202 students) do not use a tablet.

HSA Participant Pool Undergraduate Only Data

Of the ~300 undergraduates, around 50% of them are freshman. The other ~25% are sophomores while the remaining ~25% is roughly split between juniors and seniors.

50% (149 undergrad students) are in the freshman class of 2020, 22% (64 undergrad students) are in the sophomore class of 2019, 14% (40 undergrad students) are in the junior class of 2018, and 14% (42 students) are in the senior class of 2017.

The concentrations seem to be a microcosm of Harvard, with economics, computer science, and neurobiology/psychology being the top majors.

2017 HSA Study Pool by Concentration. 2 in African-American Studies, 4 in Anthropology, 10 in Applied Mathematics,  3 in Aerophysics, 10 in Biomedical Engineering, 8 in Chemical and Physical Biology, 8 in Chemistry, 5 in Chemistry and Physics, 2 in Classics, 0 in Comparative Literature, 20 in Computer Science, 0 in Earth and Planetary Sciences, 28 in Economics, 3 in Electrical Engineering, 9 in Engineering Sciences, 8 in English, 3 in Environmental Science and Public Policy, 0 in Folklore and Mythology, 0 in Germanic Languages and Literatures, 17 in Government, 5 in History, 3 in History and Literature, 3 in History of Art and Architecture, 8 in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, 5 in Human Evolutionary Biology, 5 in Integrative Biology, 3 in Linguistics, 9 in Mathematics, 6 in Mechanical Engineering, 12 in Molecular and Cellular Biology, 0 in Music, 0 in Near Eastern Languages, 24 in Neurobiology, 4 in Philosophy, 4 in Physics, 18 in Psychology, 0 in Religion Comparative Study, 0 in Romance Languages and Literatures, 0 in Slavic Language and Literatures, 11 in Social Studies, 6 in Sociology, 3 in East Asian Studies, 0 in Special Concentrations, 3 in Statistics, 1 in Theater, Dance and Media, 5 in Visual and Environmental Studies, and 2 in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

HSA Participant Pool Graduate Only Data

Roughly half of graduate students come from the Divinity school. The remainder largely come from the GSE (19%), Chan School (11%), Kennedy School (9%), and GSAS (8%)

Spring 2017 HSA Study Pool Graduate Student School Affiliation. 2% (1 graduate student) from the Division of Continuing Education, 45% (24 graduate students) from the Divinity School, 4% (2 graduate students) from the Graduate School of Design, 19% (10 graduate students) from the Graduate School of Education, 8% (4 graduate students) from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, 2% (1 student) from SEAS, 9% (5 students) from Kennedy School, 11% (6 students) from Chan School of Public Health


Recruiting and Incentives

Need ideas for email templates, recruiting methods, or incentive ideas? We have additional resources available on the UX Wiki for help, or email us at for assistance.